V.A. Disavows Combat Stress Memo
NY Times
Published: May 16, 2008

WASHINGTON (AP) — An internal e-mail message written by a Veterans Affairs Department employee suggested that the agency avoid giving a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder for veterans and instead consider a diagnosis that might result in a lower disability payment.

The message, dated March 20 and titled "Suggestion," said: "Given that we are having more and more compensation seeking veterans, I'd like to suggest that we refrain from giving a diagnosis of PTSD straight out. Consider a diagnosis of Adjustment Disorder, R/O PTSD." R/O stands for "rule out."

"Additionally," it said, "we really don't or have time to do the extensive testing that should be done to determine PTSD."

A copy of the message was distributed on Thursday by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a watchdog group, and by VoteVets.org, a lobbying group opposed to the Bush administration's handling of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

In a statement, Dr. James B. Peake, the secretary of veterans affairs, called the suggestions "inappropriate." The employee's name was not released.

"We are committed to absolute accuracy in a diagnosis and unwavering in providing any and all earned benefits," said Dr. Peake, a retired Army lieutenant general and surgeon. "P.T.S.D. and the mental health arena is no exception."

A recent study by the Rand Corporation reported that about one in five troops with service in Iraq or Afghanistan has symptoms of major depression or post-traumatic stress disorder.

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